Disclaimer : this is a text I wrote for a meeting last February. I posted it on Facebook, but I figured I have nothing to lose by posting it here as well.
When I think about hope and the act of hoping, I am turning against everything I learned in my college education. I’m trained to be a historian, a task that mostly means assessing actors with logic and then determine the logic behind actions taken, and so forth. Assessing and integrating hope into my line of thought is not a natural process, because hope does not always go hand in hand with logic (indeed, most of the time it goes against it). And that is why, the theme of the 2014 Papuasolidariteitsdag, I see as an opportunity to regain the capability of hoping.
Solidarity in Hope, Solidarity in Action: Perspectives on the Future of Papua
In my quest to regain hope, I consulted with friends from two different organizations who were kind enough to answer my questions, KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, West Papua National Committee) and AWPA (Australia West Papua Association). I asked these friends mainly two questions: why are they still fighting? And what are their hopes for Papua?
Why did I choose members of these two organizations? Because it gives me hope, because they are young people, of my generation; fully understanding the necessity of continuing the race to freedom. Most importantly I chose these friends because they remind me that we are not alone in our struggle, they remind me that in spite of differences in methods and ideas, we are all striving for a better Papua. And in that solidarity, I find hope.
When I ask the friend from KNPB on why they are continuing to fight for freedom in spite of every danger they had to face being so close to the fire, the reason is the awareness that if things progress the way it did until now, Papuans would cease to exist. Not that our presence is really promising anyway, ‘we are marginalized in our own land, our values undermined, our political rights and humanness ignored, our resources stolen and policies are immigrant-biased.’ But what struck me most is the statement, ‘we see no guarantee of the future within NKRI.’
Hope is mostly associated with the future. NKRI’s seemingly lack of ability or interest in guaranteeing the future is an important factor, in assuring that any hope of the better Papuan future would be achievable within NKRI. Consequently, the hope KNPB holds for the future is an Indonesian-free future, where ‘Papua is a self-governing nation, where its people are educated and free to determine their own fate.’
In asking the same question to the member of AWPA, I received answers in a similar, familiar tone. The friend addressed the historical unlawfulness of Indonesian takeover of West Papua, and the present concern that ‘we should cease to exist, or exist in the manner of the native people in Australia and America, that is something we want to hinder.’ What the friend was fighting for was ‘a living without fear of being murdered or tortured, in our own home or in our own land.’
These views, while they might not be representative perspectives of all young Papuans, are still very important take in, because it is in this circle that the hope for a better Papua has its most tangible expression: campaigns, demonstrations, etc. It is important for me to ask them why they are still fighting because I understand that for the young, being involved in these movements, thinking this ideology is also a fight against the temptations of conformity.
The Young and the Temptations of Conformity
The perspectives given by my friends before help me considerably in hoping, and that is the idea that some of the young are resisting the temptation of conformity. That is the temptation to just ignore what is happening in our home and live life for our own sake, or the temptation of conforming to this grave situation and just go with the flow. Not that I don’t understand, I can see how living and just thinking of your own living until the next paycheck is considerably bearable than facing the almost hopeless situation around you.
But in the struggle for a better future which is not merely individual future, Papua cannot afford to not have idealists. I see idealists in the friends I approached for this small essay, fully knowing that they probably have been subjects to mocking for their stance, mocked for not taking the easier path of conforming. But what I have also learned is that forefathers of modern countries consist of these kinds of idealists, because without hoping and expecting for a better condition, nothing would have been achieved.
But what does this imply for me as an individual? I believe my friend Grayce Windesi tells more about the responsibilities of the youth in securing a better future for West Papua. In my case, the consequence of being an idealist is knowing that in this big movement for a better Papua, I have to find my place and excel at that. For as a young Papuan, I also, am holding my breath, crossing my fingers and hoping for a better Papua.
I am with my friends when they express the idea of a better Papua: self governing, safe, a place with access to good education and health treatments and mainly peaceful. All of those hopes are not part of the characteristics of Papua today. And that situation has to change.
In quoting my older work, I remember Robin Osborne’s writing in the 1987 edition of Inside Indonesia The flag that won’tgo away , referring to the continuous struggle to free Papua. ‘The flag won’t go away. Not only because we refuse to let go, but because circumstances had made letting go impossible.’ And that brings me to my point of conclusion.
Why do I keep on fighting? Perhaps because I know things could’ve been better in West Papua, things should have been better than this. More likely, because too many people have died, too many people displaced, too many have suffered; so much so that giving up is simply not an option.